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Custard at Christmas

Asked by LolaFontaine. Answered on 26th December 2015

Full question

Hello, Christmas without custard is a culinary desert and making the RIGHT custard is crucial. I personally don't like thin watery custard (possibly known as "pouring" custard), I like the thick kind with a consistency that allows it to (at least almost) withstand being able to stay in place when held upside down on a spoon. Nigella has an endless number of recipes for custard across all of her cookbooks and I was wondering if you could either direct me to one that meets my spoon challenge or, if not, give any tips on what to look for in a recipe that will determine whether I can expect a thick or thin result!

Our answer

Most of Nigella's custard recipes, whether as a stand alone custard or as a topping for a trifle, tend to be based on the classic creme Anglaise. This involves cream thickened with egg yolks. The custard needs to be cooked genlty so that it thickens without scrambling the eggs. The type of cream used will make the custard taste richer, rather than making the consistency much thicker.

Creme anglaise should thinly coat the back of a spoon and when you pull a finger through the custard on the spoon you should see a distinct trail though the custard that holds for a few seconds. Usually the ratio is one egg yolk to 150ml (2/3 cup) cream but a larger number of egg yolks will make a slightly thicker custard, though maybe not as thick as the desired consistency mentioned. The custard will thicken though as it cools, so if you want a cold custard then please do look at the custard recipe in Nigella's Boozy British Trifle as this makes are relatively thick custard once it is chilled. For a thick, hot custard you need to add cornflour (cornstarch) as a thickener. The custard needs to come up to boiling point to thicken and to loose the taste of the uncooked starch, but the cornflour stabilizes the egg yolks so that they can tolerate higher temperatures without scrambling. Again the more cornstarch there is relative to the amount of liquid used, the thicker the custard will be.

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